Remember Iraq? The U. S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. There are still at least 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Yet Iraq gets no more than six minutes per week of news coverage on the four major networks and PBS, according to Media Matters.
In the U.K., BBC does report on Iraq, however. The British network also airs in the U.S., with BBC World News being broadcast on PBS as well as on BBC America and NPR radio.
On Aug. 17, BBC ran a long news report by Natalia Antelava about the link between the murders of gay men in Iraq and militia death squads there. The U.K. has a large Iraqi immigrant population and the London-based Iraqi LGBT, led by Ali Hili, has been detailing atrocities against gay men and lesbians in Iraq for the past five years.
Much of the data on these atrocities has been collected by Human Rights Watch and reported by BBC. Human Rights Watch issued a fact-finding report on the brutality, disappearances, torture and murder of gay men and lesbians on Aug. 16.
Antelava’s Aug. 17 BBC report excerpting these findings was horrific. It noted that hundreds of Iraqi gay men had been targeted and killed since 2004. The murders are both death-squad killings and so-called “honor killings,” according to BBC. (Honor killings are prevalent throughout Islamic countries. Women and girls are the primary targets, but queers are now increasingly targets as well.)
The extent of the problem in Iraq was brought to the attention of Human Rights Watch by Iraqi expatriates like Hili, as well as gay men and lesbians still living in Iraq, many of whom Antelava interviewed for her disturbing report.
Hili told BBC that 87 gay men and lesbians had been murdered just since January and that seven gay men had been murdered in just the past two weeks.
According to Antelava, gay men have been found with their throats gouged out and their genitals cut off and chopped up. These murders, noted Antelava, were the least gruesome. The HRW report gives testimony from doctors and BBC notes on its Web site that gay men have had their anuses glued shut and then were force-fed laxatives, resulting in a grisly and excruciating death.
Hili noted that extremist religious factions had taken over in Iraq since the U.S. invasion and, as a consequence, secular society has all but vanished.
“Lots and lots of nightclubs and bars” existed in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion, Hili said, and added that since Iraq was a secular state under Hussein, there was “more sexual freedom” for gays and lesbians at that time.
“Unfortunately, Iraq’s become the worst and most dangerous place on [the] face of [the] earth [for gay men and lesbians]” since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the theocratic state in Iraq, Hili told BBC.
BBC reported that “in some cases, Iraqi security forces had actually colluded and joined in the killings” of gay men. One gay man who asked to remain anonymous told Antelava, “These killings will continue, because it has simply become normal in Iraq to kill gay men.” His voice was fraught with fear.
Posters appeared recently in Sadr City, an extremist Shia enclave in Baghdad, which said citizens should be on the lookout for gay men. The posters listed the names and addresses of known gay men, according to BBC.
Antelava’s report, more on the Human Rights Watch report and the interview with Hili are available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/middle_east/8204853.stm.